CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 13 . . . . March 3, 2000
Janna propped her pillow at the end of the bed and gazed at Omie's picture. Above her, she could hear the sounds of Omie going to bed. As she lay watching, half concentrating, she sensed again movement in the bushes and branches which trailed over the shining still surface of the water. Intently now, not daring to move, Janna stared. She could see the branches tremble, and she could hear the leaves rustle as though someone was pushing the foliage aside. Something pale became visible behind the leaves. As Janna struggled to make out what it was, the shape drew nearer, and then a woman stepped out. She was slight, dressed in a long rose-coloured garment. She lifted her head and looked at Janna. Involuntarily Janna sat up, gripped by compelling dark eyes. She didn't know what happened next. Everything went black and she felt herself falling. A cold wind roared through her ears and she cried out; the sound of her voice echoed through the darkness.Time travel stories are currently a popular genre that give readers insight into and information about different historical periods. Tangled in Time is another such story that sends Janna, the protagonist, back through a painting into the Depression. The book was the fifth and last novel written by Alberta novelist Lynne Fairbridge before her untimely death.
In her modern life, Janna is dealing with great changes. Her father has died only a year before, and now her mother is obviously enamored with Dennis, a neighbour. Janna, her mother and brother go to visit their grandmother in Calgary, and Janna is annoyed that Dennis, who also has family there, accompanies them. She is deeply hurt and confused when her mother announces plans to marry Dennis and relocate the family to Calgary. At the same time she has discovered that family- related information, she is literally drawn back into time by an old painting in her grandmother's house. Caught in the Dirty Thirties over an entire summer, Janna finds herself to be a member of a poor Dutch immigrant family. Initially she works as a maid to feed the family and then on a farm that lacks electricity, running water and all of today's amenities. She experiences hunger, hard work and humiliation as well as her own first love. All this makes Janna a more mature girl who appreciates the life she had, and she misses her family deeply. She develops an understanding of her mother's feelings and finally makes the connection between her grandmother and the picture.
Not only does Janna's travel in time give her insight into how difficult life has been for others, it also allows her to gain emotional insight beyond her years. All the characters in the present relate to those in the past. The concept of the story is intriguing, and Janna's position as a young teen in conflict over her family situation is believable. There are a few rough spots in the story as Janna's true identity is never revealed even though she bumbles and bungles her way through so many situations during the summer. The long stretches in time are dismissed in a paragraph, a situation which doesn't mesh with the great detail Fairbridge used to describe Janna's daily experiences.
Young girls, while enjoying this story of lost love, sorrow and renewal, will absorb a lot of useful historical information about the 1930's in Canada.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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